Robin Williams, suicide, and “getting it”

Robin Williams, who starred in many formative movies of my childhood and released comedy that had my high-school friends and I in stitches, took his own life this week. He’d struggled with alcohol and drug addition, and severe depression, and in the end decided to end it.

I don’t get it, and that’s why it’s scary.

I mean, intellectually I get it. I can see the reasoning. Though I don’t personally suffer from depression, I know people who do and have seen its effects. I’m told and have witnessed how the world seems to turn gray and the usual pleasures seem empty and how although you know at the back of your mind that you’re loved, you don’t see it. It sounds like you’re not sad—you just don’t care. You don’t feel anything, so in the end, taking that final step seems like it might make you feel something. It’s actually a quite logical line of thinking to an outsider, so in that sense I understand it.

But I don’t “get” it.

I doubt I ever will. It’s one of those experiential things that if it hasn’t happened to you, the closest you can get it second-hand relation.

Because it’s an illness of the mind, and when the thing that normally diagnoses problems is the thing with the problem, it can’t see the forest for the trees, so to speak. The mind can’t ever be truly outside itself, so can’t see it’s whole self. The best you can do is seek the help of another mind, but even that’s an imperfect solution made harder by social and internal obstacles.

So we end up with wealthy, successful, brilliant Robin Williams, who apparently had everything but a way out.

At least, that’s how it seems to me. I’m probably wrong.

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2 Responses to Robin Williams, suicide, and “getting it”

  1. Jayarava says:

    Came looking for linguistics and found this. The thing about depression is that it distorts your mind. Perception and cognition are affected. So, as successful as he was, RW may well have felt he was a failure. From our point of view it’s incomprehensible, but his own self-talk may have been entirely negative because that is what happens in depression: you have this inner voice going over and over reminding you of your faults, your mistakes, your regrets. It’s relentless. And in fact his career was in a serious slump and he had been taking jobs just for the money.

    While the world loved him and he had loving intimates he may have been incapable of experiencing the associated emotions at the time. So instead he may have felt alone, isolated, lonely, cut off. In interviews he’d talked about his desperate need to seek love and attention and how it drove him to be a performer. And how it drove him to drug and alcohol abuse. While he achieved adulation it might simply not have registered. Just as in anorexia a painfully thin person can look in the mirror and perceive themselves as fat. Depression tends to restrict you to a very narrow emotional register. Often for men this is not sadness or despair, but rage (something new I learned recently).

    Then add a vastly foreshortened horizon. The present moment of torment seems to go on for ever. One cannot remember a different past or imagine a different future. RW also had a degenerative disease that was likely to slowly rob him of his rather tenuous dignity. It really was never going to be better for him.

    From the inside being depressed is like being in solitary confinement with no chance of parole. It’s not rational, but once you understand the starting premises it is logical. I totally “get” it. Who knows what dreams may come in that sleep of death, but I like to think he’s finally at peace.

  2. Jack says:

    Well, I came to this site because of a google search for mtDNA h1f and I really liked your reasoning in that h1g article. Tests show, I’m even whiter than white as 98% Northern European but I suppose society will have to accept me since I’m shown to be 2% East Asian too, which is really Amerindian from before the Thomas Jefferson administration; but oh well without my official papers from tribes I’ll continue to have to listen to denials of it’s not possible to have Amerindian ancestry without paperwork. I’m guessing they all the deniers spontaneously generated under cabbage leaves and were left the appropriate paperwork sometime after the Thomas Jefferson administration.

    Anyway, that’s what I was doing that led me to this site but I really care more about refuting this notion that Robin William’s suicide was caused by depression and lie it at the real cause and that was Robin William’s own drug addiction.

    This shifting of fault for Robin Williams and others’ suicides to depression and not their drug abuse is really irksome and medically misleading.

    Culturally, it is evasive and selfish, to ignore the medical fact that it wasn’t the depression, it was the drug abuse. The depression wasn’t the cause of the drug abuse, the drug abuse was the cause of the depression. The drug abuse was chosen to be sociable and popular and to stupefy one such that they ignore their insecurities, not to medicate depression. Feeling unconfident and insecure isn’t what depression is and drug abuse to alleviate that insecurity only reduces inhibitions that Robin Williams had and ultimately caused the depression. Without ever have started the drugs Robin Williams would have been simply shy and not depressed. He needed only a bit more bravery really. As Robin William’s success showed, the drug abuse wasn’t needed for him to be popular, being Robin Williams being Robin Williams was enough.

    One almost gets the feeling one is rationalizing for excuses as to why their own drug abuse or the drug abuse of a person known to them is acceptable and won’t result in the same outcome. One is too timid to challenge what they know is wrong both culturally and medically and that’s wrong. Just agree with the those famous folk in the media and everything will be alright. Or maybe, as Robin Williams found, he needed a doctor that would tell him the truth. His addiction was causing the depression, not the other way around. The urge to do drugs wasn’t caused by depression it was caused by addiction. The same mechanism that makes one thirst or hunger makes one crave drugs once addicted and that is not depression.

    I’ve never been an alcoholic but I’ve drunk heavy enough to have suicidal thoughts. That alcohol induced depression wasn’t a true depression but a drug induced depression. It’s the drug addiction and abuse that induces the suicidal behavior. I was also addicted to the nicotine in cigarettes for 26 years so I know what addiction is. Lucky for me, cigarettes don’t depress the mind like alcohol and other abused drugs do, but I’m glad to be quit, nonetheless.

    It’s the dirty little secret about drug addiction. Drug addiction can’t medicate depression, but drug addiction can cause a massive depression. Just say no.

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